What I Miss Most: Ripping Across Miami's Best Bridge Like a Goddamned Movie Star
Welcome to What I Miss Most, a recurring column in which writers wax poetic about the things from home that they found themselves yearning for upon moving to NYC (or the things from NYC they craved upon moving away from it). For an archive of previous What I Miss Most columns, click here.
There's a bridge in Miami called the MacArthur Causeway. It's an elevated section of I-395 that connects Miami to South Beach, and it's a goddamned thrill.
When New York and I were still in the courting phase and I was aggressively flirting with the idea of moving here, I didn't think about the bridge much. At that point, with a seven-year relationship behind me and my 30s not so far in front of me, I was finding excuses to visit NYC every couple months. The high I felt walking its streets -- that's what I thought about. My life was basically a best-selling Lauren Weisberger novel, give or take a few quirky sidekicks and a daring career change, and in the final pages of the Florida chapter, there was no room for the MacArthur.
It was only a matter of time before I left Miami for Manhattan, and three years ago, I finally did. Fast forward 36 months and three egregious broker's fees: I've since realized that most of that initial Empire State ecstasy was rooted in the idea of starting a new life in New York City. Because actually wandering the streets here? Not as transcendent an activity as it once seemed.
This is painfully evident at certain times: when I’m sweating profusely on the subway, pedaling to my third CitiBike station to find a dock that works, or nearly falling into a street hatch in order to pass mind-numbingly slow pedestrians who are blockading the sidewalk.
The drive looks like a music video.
Train delay? Bike lane closed? Sidewalks full of tourists? WHY ME? WHY?!
Sure, getting around Miami can -- and usually does -- suck, too. The traffic is bad and the drivers are worse (than the traffic, and than me). But driving over this bridge does not. Driving over the MacArthur is transcendent. Windows down, skyline lit up, and the feeling of rubber on road as I hit the on-ramp... that's the dream.
The entire cruise looks like a music video. It's never not spectacular. This exact bridge is spotlighted in iconic flicks like Bad Boys, popular video games like Grand Theft Auto, and the opening credits of Miami Vice, the show that pretty much defined the '80s. As far as I'm concerned, MacArthur deserves every damn second of that screen time, and then some.
When making your ascent towards Miami Beach in full daylight, you’re blinded by crystal blue water. It's a literal sea of literal boats. Lining the outer edges of Star and Hibiscus Islands, there are insanely beautiful homes you’ll never have. (Speaking of music videos, Scott Storch’s now-foreclosed-upon waterfront mansion is one of these homes, and I always tried to spot it. Irony!)
In the evening, as you return to Miami proper, the Downtown skyline will greet you with a bouquet of neon. Front and center is the famous Miami Tower, the “Chameleon of the Skyline." It changes colors regularly, just like the Empire State Building. Then there are the orange, red, and yellow beacons projecting from the American Airlines Arena. The bridge itself is backlit with deep blue and purple floodlights. You’re driving through a rainbow. That is some dreamy shit.
Don't get me wrong. It’s undoubtedly for the best I live in a walkable city like New York. I don't miss driving, at least not in general. I'm not good at it, and the fact that I survived on Miami roads for nearly a decade -- regularly ranked amongst the country's worst -- is nothing short of a miracle. In nearly a decade cruising South Florida’s thoroughfares, I had my fair share of incidents.
One time, I hit a parked car and shattered my mirror, then never fixed it. My go-to excuse was “I don’t need it, I always check my blind spot," which was then, and remains now, a lie. Another time, I got pulled over on the Palmetto Expressway (indisputably the worst expressway in America) going 30mph over the speed limit. That’s a felony in the state of Florida, and somehow I found myself back in the passing lane without a ticket, and with an open invitation for a ride-along. So, no: I don't miss day-to-day driving in Miami.
You never get that cinematic solo shot in NYC.
And honestly, I have zero regrets about moving to New York. The truth is, there are infinite ways to catch a high here. New York City is built on that narcotic promise; it’s the only reason millions of people choose to endure what we do to live here, and millions more yearn for the chance.
But man alive if I don’t miss the kind of driving that makes you feel inspired, elated, and above all, untouchable. The kind that you do with an arm hanging out out the window. The kind of driving that makes you infinitely better at remembering song lyrics, 'cause you're singing them at the top of your lungs as you roll through a real-life movie set. (I preferred to soundtrack my trips over the MacArthur with Nas’ “The Flyest,” but it's really up to driver's preference.) That's Miami driving.
“Don’t you feel the same way when you put on headphones in New York?” That's what my friends here ask.
No. Of course not. I can’t belt out bars from Stillmatic as loud as I want to -- or really at all -- without becoming one of those inconsiderate, uncivilized jerks to whom I give dirty looks on the street. It’s never just you when you’re on the move in New York. You never have the solitude of being in a car. You never have that cinematic solo shot. Here, you’re just another foot soldier marching towards something in a silent hurry.
There are bridges in New York, and if I really wanted to, I could get a car. (I wouldn't do that to you.) But there's one secret -- completely true and personally verified -- to MacArthur Causeway that no NYC span could ever match. Here it is.
Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight," the same song the Miami Heat used to walk out to, runs the entire driving length of the Causeway from the I-95 on ramp to the beach. Seriously, try it. Or better yet, tell this mind-blowing fact to a Dade County cop, and it may just get you out of a felony-level speeding ticket.
Worked for me.
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